Federal Law Preempts Florida’s Restrictions on Chinese Citizens’ Ownership of Real Property

An opinion by Judges Adalberto Jordan, Kevin Newsom & Nancy Abudu, “Florida Statutes §§ 692.201–692.204 are preempted by federal law,”specifically 50 U.S.C. § 4565, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“FIRRMA”), and 31 C.F.R. § 802.701. The defendants/appellees are preliminarily enjoined from enforcing the standing statutory provisions against Ms. Shen and Mr. Xu. The decision does not bind the merits panel that will hear oral argument in April.

Judge Abudu concurred that the Florida Statutes §§ 692.201–692.204 violate the Equal Protection Clause. In 2023, Florida enacted SB 264 to restrict land purchases by any foreign principal, designated as someone who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States. China, alongside other countries, was listed as a foreign country of concern. SB 264 specifically restricted any person domiciled in the People’s Republic of China from owning any interest in real property in Florida, subject to a narrow exception and a grandfather clause. Violation of the statute could result in criminal prosecution. Governor Ron DeSantis declared that the bill was enacted to counteract the Chinese Communist Party’s influence in Florida, emphasizing the bill’s aim to stand against the Chinese Communist Party and crack down on Communist China. Judge Abudu highlighted that state-based “alien” restrictions no longer stand the constitutional test. Consequently, the Plaintiffs/Appellants’ equal protection claim should be reviewed under strict scrutiny, as the court finds that the plaintiffs easily meet their burden of showing a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.